I have to admit that I started this book without any expectations at all (while I’ve since read quite a bit of Brandon Sanderson, at the time I had not known any of his work). As a big SciFi and Fantasy fan I have read many more series, authors and books that aren’t worth any further consideration but every now and then an author surprises you with the quality of their writing and their “world building” and you just completely get hooked by them. This series is one of the better ones!
There are definitely some things that aren’t complete in this series, however overall the idea, concept and completion is really well done. While generally you cannot compare books to TV shows – the concept of filler episodes/chapters definitely apply in many instances. Fortunately this is not the case with regards to Mistborn and it is obvious that Sanderson has planned the story out from start to end and uses the words to build the middle vs. just muddling along and “seeing” where the story takes us.
Mistborn: The Final Empire
What do you do when the good guys lose?
This is the premise to the whole Mistborn series – while the Lord Ruler was meant to be the prophesied hero of the ages and rescued the world from some sort of evil – we learn in this book that in truth, the man who became the Lord Ruler was in reality NOT the one who was meant to get that power.
In Mistborn – The Final Empire the world is a dark and dangerous place. The Lord Ruler has absolute power and dominion over the land and any rebellion is put down with ruthless efficiency. It is up to a small handful of rebels to make a difference – to change the world and restore normalcy to the land. However when a god is in charge and has been for 1000 years the chances of success are small to slim.
The novel takes place mainly in the city of Luthadel and the lands surrounding it. Luthadel is a city harshly divided into an upper and lower class; a government rules with an iron fist over the nobility and the lower class “skaa”. The differences between the Nobles (those who control the power of Allomancy) and the Skaa – the slaves of the Final Empire are extremely evident in this novel and while some of the other races are covered off they are given a lot more depth in later novels where they are explored and expanded to a much greater depth. This book is primarily about the Skaa and Vin and Kelsier.
The way in which the players in the game utilize their power and “magic” is really well explored and the fact that this power is not “unlimited” but rather has limits that make sense. If the user of the magic “burns” up his or her resource, they have no more and the care, storage and “pairings” of the different elements and metals are key.
Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun. After destroying the Lord Ruler in the Final Empire, the crew that deposed him is left to pick up all the pieces and come up with a way to solve the Lord Rulers final riddle. It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.
Vin is the most powerful Mistborn in the land, but without Kelsier her training is not fully complete. While her power is without compare she is still “learning the ropes” and Elend (Venture) who loves her has his own problems. As the proclaimed ruler of Luthandel, he has to deal with the several armies wishing to conquer his kingdom while at the same time trying to build a new empire from the ashes that are left.
Starting one year after the events of The Final Empire, Elend’s rule is one of conflict and disharmony. The citizens of the land do not believe in him and many of his former peers see him as a very temporary and idealistic ruler who while very knowledgeable – has no real experience as a Leader. This includes his father – a leader of an army that is attacking Luthandel to retrieve the Atium that is said to be stored there.
As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows. While armies attacking might seem to be the only problem – something is wrong with the mists and people are losing their lives with no rhyme or reason.
The Well of Ascension continues expanding on the other characters in the Final Empire and the Kandra and Koloss are explored to a much greater degree than in the previous book. In addition the Terrasmen play a much larger role in this and the next book and while the other characters from the “crew” are not given as much page time, Vin and Elend are covered extremely fully.
Something else to enjoy and read with great care are the prophecies of Alendi which are the chapter headings at the beginning of each chapter. Taken together – they would make a book in itself!
The Final Empire is on a world called Scarial. The Lord Ruler gained his power through the Well of Ascension one thousand years before the first book (The Final Empire) begins. With the power that he gained, he changed the location of the planet in addition to rearranging the continents themselves!
The People of the Final Empire
Mistwraiths/Kandra/Koloss and Skaa
The Lord Ruler (with the power granted to him by the Well) changed the peoples of the world to not only better survive the new world (Skaa) but also to serve him in his battles (the Mistrwraiths/Kandra/Koloss) both against Ruin and also the rest of the land.
The descendants of those that did not immediately support the Lord Ruler when he came into power, the Skaa were the servants and slaves of the Nobles in the Final Empire. Skaa do not have Allomatic powers, however as they can breed with the Noble Classes, their children and descendants can gain these powers (both Vin and Kelsier are descendants of such unions). While the Skaa rebelled many times over the years under the Lord Ruler, none were successful or even partially so.
Mistwraiths and Kandra
Kandra are “built” from Mistwraiths through the use of “spikes” that give them intelligence – where Mistwraiths come from in the first place is not properly explained unfortunately. However it is clear that Mistwraiths with their ability to consume the bones of animals and creatures throughout the land and to give these bones “life” serve as a significant reason for the fear of the mists that the Skaa experience.
Kandra act as spies and with their ability to mimic anyone they are both extremely valued and feared by the Nobles of the Final Empire. Adhering to the “contract” the Kandra realize that this is the only way to ensure that there race is not destroyed.
Explained in the final book – the Koloss are actually humans that have been transformed by use of “spikes” and the changes that the Lord Ruler has made in the human race. Starting at approximately 6 feet tall they grow all the way to 12 feet in height. With superhuman strength they are bestial in nature and are extremely difficult to control. Koloss (like Kandra) can be controlled by strong Allomancers.
For a small group of peoples, the Lord Ruler gave a gift – the gift of Allomancy and the power to control the elements. This group was comprised of the early supporters to the Lord Ruler and Allomancy itself is something that can be passed down through the generations. However, with each successive generation the ability and strength of this gift decreases.
The Magic of the Final Empire
There are three different types of “magic” at use in the Final Empire. While some have similarities and depend on the others to work they each have their own rules and ways in which they work and don’t work.
The primary and most well known of the abilities in the Final Empire. Allomancers ingest and use metals to give them their power and ability. Each metal has a different attribute and some can be used in conjunction with others to give the user even more power and ability.
Only available to people of the Terris race, Feruchemy also utilizes metals but in this case instead of “burning” the metals, abilities and knowledge are stored in the metal itself that the users utilize.
As long as a metal is in contact with the skin and the Feruchemist has stored something in it, it can be drawn upon. Only the Feruchemist that originally stored the attribute can use it.
Mistborn – can burn all of the metals
Mistings – can only burn one metal
Similar to Allomancy, each metal used by a Feruchemist has a different ability/attribute granting the wearer a different “gift”.
The third and final power of the Final Empire is that of Hemalurgy. This power (used to create the Koloss/Kandra and Steel Inquisitors) works by driving a metal spike through a living body and stealing their “life force and abilities” which are then infused into the subject.
Only one attribute can be stolen per spike, per person, and the power or attribute gained depends on where the beneficiary is stabbed, and which metal is used.
Like many others I had heard of Brandon Sanderson due to his assumption of the completion of The Wheel of Time. I then thought I would explore his writing to determine how someone I had never heard of before could have been selected to complete this epic work. Exploring his writing with the Mistborn Trilogy -The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages – made me start to understand why he was chosen for this work.
Reading The Way of Kings over the past week in a couple of late night marathon sessions has completed that understanding and made things imminently clear to me.
The Way of Kings starts with a prologue thousands of years before the main storyline. Detailing the Heralds and their battles it speaks to the time that the Heralds abandoned humanity and left them to their fate. Supernatural leaders, the Heralds had powers and weapons even greater than the Radiants that followed and although there were only ten, they were constantly reborn to fight and their times away from the battles and the light of humanity were not peaceful. Tortured yet reborn over and over, the Heralds were immortal but also fallible. Talenel was the last Herald left that kept to the Oathpact and in the prologue we learn that Kalak and Jezrien (the King of the Heralds) along with the other 7 chose to abandon him to it hoping that the Radiants would be able to contain “Him”.
Jumping thousands of years into the future and into the timeline of the story we are introduced to a enigmatic character – a mournful assassin and member of the tribe of the Shin. Dressed all in white he has been tasked with ensuring that the King of Alethkar is killed. This death (where we first get a taste for the power and magic in this kingdom) is what truly sets the story into motion as it is by this action that each of the other main characters are brought into the story and into contact with each other.
Speak again the ancient oaths,
Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before Destination.
The World and Peoples
Roshar is a savage world. Tempests and storms of awesome power sweep across the lands and the changing seasons have not only affected the way man lives, but have also impacted the ecology of the land itself. Animals are covered in hard carapaces and shells, trees are able to retract their branches and the grass itself hides from the storms.
Cities are built to minimize the impact of these storms and shelter in the lee of mountains themselves and a common punishment for criminals themselves is to leave them to the “mercy of the storm” for judgement.
The Knights Radiant are no longer – after the fall/departure of the Heralds they were the last bastion of goodness in the fight against the Voidbringers and kept humanities laws and honor intact. With their betrayal and departure also, all that remains is the tools they used in their battles. Shardblades and Shardplate – mystical swords and armor that utilize gems and diamonds to function. Granting their wearer superhuman strength and abilities, the only way to defeat a wearer of these devices is through overwhelming force or if someone else is also similarly armed.
As such these items have come to be rightly prized throughout the land and battles and wars fought to obtain a single piece.
Surgeon, Son, Slave, Soldier, Warrior, Leader … Kaladin is all of these and many more. One of the primary characters in The Way of Kings, Kaladin is a disgraced slave at the start of the book and throughout the course of the story we learn how this son of a Surgeon became the man he is.
As a bridge carrier, Kaladin is on the front lines of the wars on the Shattered Plains and while he may not understand the purposes of the “Lords” around him, he knows that to survive he needs to be more than he currently is.
Kaladin is a tortured soul who has seen many that he loves come to harm but things are changing for him now and with a spreen that only he can see, Kaladin has a special gift and hopefully a different future ahead of him.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin – brother to the King assassinated by Szeth (the Shen Assassin dressed in White), he is trying to do as his brother commanded and is now reading a book called – The Way of Kings.
A guidebook to how leaders should behave and how they should act and treat the men under their command, this book is derided by the people of the world today as being overly provincial and out of date as well as somewhat heretical.
Dalinar is also being visited by visions, visions from the times of the Knights Radiant and the battles that they fought in. However these visions come to him in the midst of the storms and to all others Dalinar is simply mad.
Shallan … a scholar … and a thief. Shallan has journeyed across the world to learn from Dalinar’s niece – Jasnah. However her scholarly intentions hide a deeper and more sinister motive. With an almost supernatural ability and gift with regards to learning and drawing, Shallan is much more than she seems.
A 1000 page book, The Way of Kings (while a hefty and heavy read) does not feel that large at all and like all great books, this one leaves you wanting to read more!!
Unlike Jordan, Brandon Sanderson has not introduced a multitude of bit characters and competing story lines (not yet at least) that you need to keep track of to know what is going on. The primary “voice” of the story is through the eyes of Kaladin, Dalimar and Shallan (with some smaller sequences with Szeth) & each of these characters develop throughout the course of this one novel in unique and interesting ways.
Kaladin as a slave seems to have a bleak and downtrodden future, but his growth and the changes in his character throughout the course of this book made him one of my favorites and I was definitely looking forward to his chapters in the book.
Dalimar is probably my second favorite character with his sense of honor and attempts to do the right thing, not only because its in the book, but also because it seems to make sense to him now. His strength on the battlefield and the care that he shows his men makes him seem like a man you would feel good following.
Shallan – while currently not my favorite character – I expect that she will grow on me throughout the course of this series. Her abilities seem to compliment those that Kaladin demonstrates and her knowledge and learning will undoubtedly come in useful. With the fact that women on Roshar are the only ones that seem to be able to read and write, her part in this story is bound to be an extremely important one.
Overall I really liked this book. You can definitely see that there are some common themes from some of his other books and even other authors – for example his system magic here being based on gems and stones and in Mistborn on metals for example or even the whole part about Heralds being “reborn” to fight battles – very similar to the warriors born again and and again in the Wheel of Time series. However I think any good author takes influences from a multitude of sources and regardless of the “uniqueness” of the idea or not, its how something is delivered and here The Way of Kings truly shines. A hefty tome as previously mentioned, it is extremely well written and presented with beautiful illustrations and pictures throughout and there are no parts of the book that you feel could or should have been left out.
Mysteries abound in this book – chasmfiends and other creatures throughout the lands, the armor and swords that they use, the constant wars, the storms, the jewels, the loss of the Knights and the Heralds and the enemy they were in fact fighting. Magic itself while somewhat explained is also a mystery in itself as it seems there are things that some of these characters can do that others cannot – how are they able to do it, and why them? Was this something lost through time or is it simply a gift that needs training.
The Stormlight Archives – The Way of Kings … with Jordan’s Epic Wheel of Time finally coming to end (also thanks to Brandon Sanderson coincidentally) I was looking for a new series to fall in love with. I have found it here and can only say -Thank You, I cannot wait for the next one!
Hopefully by this point in time you’ve realized that I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work (my review of The Rithmatist is here and also one of his books in the epic Wheel of Time series – The Gathering Storm).
I’m always in awe of his creativity and to be honest his throughput frankly astounds me! It seems that there is a new book by him almost every month and each of them are not only unique they are extremely well defined and just as importantly well written and edited!
There are no heroes. Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.
Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.
It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.
My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.
I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.
Steelheart I’m happy to say is no exception to this rule. For those that haven’t read it yet or know nothing about Sanderson’s writing, the prologue is available on his website here along with some additional excerpts from some other chapters. Its well worth a read and I’d recommend it … now onto the review!
Steelheart tells the story of a world changed. What we might have expected from the comic books – a world of heroes and villains is anything but, as everyone “afflicted/gifted” with super powers sets out to make themselves king and overlord. An “event” happened ten years ago – called Calamity it gifted ordinary men and women with super powers. Both primary and secondary powers that made them more than human.
People started calling these super-humans “Epics” and while the creed of Spiderman is “with great power comes great responsibility”, the Epics went the other way and decided to rule mankind with an iron fist. Bitter and epic (excuse the pun) battles took place all over the Earth and the shattered remnant of humanity was left to struggle and survive in scattered enclaves.
One such enclave is ruled by Steelheart. One of the more powerful Epics, Steelheart is not only extremely strong, he is bulletproof and can transform ordinary matter into steel. If that wasn’t enough, he also has the power to shoot energy from his hands and is said to be immortal!
Set against this demi-god? David Charleston – someone with no powers or gifts … simply an overarching desire for vengeance and revenge. You see, Steelheart killed David’s dad and he’ll do anything to make him pay even if it means destroying himself in the process!
The Wheel of Time is a massive story spanning generations … primarily focused on the lives of several key characters, it still explores the historical worlds first popularized by Tolkein in an inventive and creative fashion. The series itself was first launched with the book : The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) and has now reached 12 books with another 2 still remaining to be released.
The most recent book and the final ones in the storyline have actually been written by a different author as during the course of writing the whole series and the 2 decades + that it has taken, the original Author – Robert Jordan – died! The new author – Brandon Sanderson – is responsible for the Mistborn series of novels (also set in a very well realized fantasy world) and has taken and is using Robert Jordan’s notes to complete the series.
I will be reviewing each book here and have provided a link to all of the other reviews which is accessible from this main page. I’ll also be linking in some common questions that I had (and where possible providing information on the answers) as this series is big and can easily confuse you especially considering how long a wait there is between each book.
One final note before you continue reading … this post and some of the linked ones, contain spoilers! The Wheel of Time books are an intricate, many-layered narrative covering an entire world over the course of several years (and many centuries, in flashbacks). DO NOT read it if you have not yet read the book in question (unless you have no plans to read that book) as although this is not a synopsis of each book, it does show how they tie together and also how each of the characters interrelate. As such, there is much information covered in each book; some of it reveals secrets that impact earlier information, and can change the way you view characters and events at the time.
“And the Shadow fell upon the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans fled, and the mountains were swallowed up, and the nations were scattered to the eight corners of the World. The moon was as blood, and the sun was as ashes. The seas boiled, and the living envied the dead. All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon.
(from Aleth nin Taerin alta Camora,
The Breaking of the World. Author unknown, the Fourth Age)”
Now, for those NOT in the know, to repeat, The Wheel of Time is a book series set in a Tolkein type fantasy environment. You will find magic (the One power and the True power), Orcs (Trollocs in the Wheel of Time) etc… there is also a decided similiarity between some of the key characters – a’Lan Mandragoran plays the part of Aragorn quite well and while the villagers bear a passing resemblance to our favorite Hobbits, you’ll find that there are distinct differences also!
One interesting point to note however is that unlike The Lord of the Rings, the power that the Trollocs initially utilize and the fear that they inspire in our key characters, gradually changes as our characters develop and grow. This is very similar to the “leveling up” that you might see or experience when playing a role playing game or MMORPG.
With all the smilarities being mentioned however, there is also some extremely distinct differences and although he is using similar themes that Jordan is able to build a fully realized universe that has many unique elements to it. For example, although the Forsaken are very similar to the Nazgûl they are also their own completely unique personalities. In addition, his magic system is completely different and quite well reasoned with the male and female elements of the power each having their own distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Something is wrong. I was all set to really love this book – having just finished The Way of Kingsand as someone who’s now read almost everything that Brandon Sanderson has written I thought his writing was something I really liked and enjoyed … but … there was something … missing with this book.
In his previous book in the Wheel of Time Universe – The Gathering StormI was extremely impressed with the way he was able to bring closure to so many of Jordan’s long outstanding story-lines and advance the story. He’s done the same thing here, but for some reason it just didn’t have the same impact for me – perhaps because I am now more familiar with him and what he is capable of – in fact as I read this immediately after completing The Way of Kings perhaps that influenced me more than it should have as I was definitely comparing the writing throughout my reading.
Now – please don’t get me wrong, it might seem like I didn’t like this book – that’s actually not the case, its just that I didn’t like it in comparison to his other books and writing. Overall what happened in the story with some of the main characters was excellent – while his characterization and handling of some characters (notably Matt) will never be the same as Jordan’s, the sequences with Perrin were really well handled and it was good to see all the villagers back again in one book.
In terms of Closure
If closure is really letting go then this book has that and in spades (by the way, in case you’ve not read any of my other posts, you might not realize that spoilers do abound, so please read at your own risk!) as you will see from the partial list below:
The Gholam is back (if only for a little while) and he seems to have a mission to destroy Mat. Mat and the Gholam fight several times and Mat is able to trick and trap it into a Skimming Gateway that has been created by Kinswomen. Some outstanding questions of course are (1) Is it really gone?, (2) Why was it impacted/hurt by the medallion that Matt has?, (3) What about all the other medallions that Elayne has created now – how will they be used?
Mat, Thom and Noal finally visit the Tower of Ghenjei and are able to rescue Morraine. By the way was it a surprise to anyone that Noal was actually Jain Farstrider? This was fairly obvious right from the beginning and introduction of his character wasn’t it? While Mat has to lose one of his eye’s to effect this escape, the overall sequence though seems rather clunky to me.
Perrin, Faile and Berlaine seem to finally resolve their issues and Berlaine falls in love with Galad. Perrin has a couple of really cool sequences though:
The sequence in the White Tower when he is carrying the Dreamspike and comes across the Battle in Telhandroid between Egwene and the Black Ajah. His simple dismissal of the Balefire weave that is shot by Mesaana is both hilarious and also a very strong indicator of his power in the World of Dreams especially compared to what the Wise Ones and Aes Sedai think a Dream Walker should be capable of.
The whole sequence were he builds/creates his hammer with the use of the power and the Asha’man. Seeing how power forged weapons are created makes you understand their true importance and worth and the way in which this whole section was written made it really easy to visualize and enjoy. You could almost see the flames jumping into the air.
Rand seems to have truly reconciled himself and both of his different personalities are now completely integrated. The difference though seems almost too profound and complete though and there doesn’t seem to be any lingering uncertainties now – which to some extent is a bit odd, as its taken us 12 books to get here and it all seemed to be fixed in the final chapter of the previous book.
Now there are quite a few other things that are finalized and closed off but writing them all would cause me to have a tome of comparable size also!
Things that I didn’t like
There were a couple of main area’s that just didn’t work for me –
The whole sequence with the Aiel and Aviendha … I really didn’t like the foreshadowing of the future of the Aiel. While its interesting that the story doesn’t end with the Last Battle, perhaps it should? How the Aiel and the rest of the channelers are handled in battle against the Seanchan doesn’t really make sense.
Galad and the Whitecloaks – while I know that they are all about the Black & White and cannot see any gray’s its a little bit silly when they are so rabid and fixated on just one thing. Considering how good with a sword Galad is meant to be, in the battle with the Trollocs he doesn’t really impress.
Tam Al’Thor – seems to be jumping around all over the place and there seems to perhaps be some sort of time shift or something that isn’t really covered or explained properly.
Rand – as previously mentioned, his change in personality seems to be too extreme considering what has happened in other previous books.
Graendal was the person who killed Asmodean … good to know, but how we found out about it was not right! This was told in the glossary for crying out loud!!! This is completely wrong considering how long this mystery has been out there and how many different theories have been written!
Ituralde – OK, the battle sequences were cool, but my question is … how is anything he’s done worthy of being called a “Great General”? I mean when Matt was involved in the battles in earlier books you could see how his skills came to bear and how he could make a difference, but I didn’t get anything similar out of Ituralde at all and it just seemed to me that he was reacting vs. anything else.
Its always a pleasure reading another WOT book and despite some of the decencies that are in this book, that pleasure is still there. With the final battle starting and the Trollocs attacking in the Borderlands the end is definitely nigh which after 13 books and over decade of waiting is about time!
Seeing how some of the characters finally progress and how Perrin grows and finally progresses instead of continually complaining all the time is great also as is the way in which Matt stops being a joker and starts taking some responsibility for his power.
While this isn’t my favorite book in the series, it is better than some of the other ones that I have read for sure and some of the sequences are truly amazing! Being the penultimate book in the series I definitely cannot wait for the next and final book to see how it all ends!
This book was one that I took with me on a long road trip. I expected it to last me at least half the trip, but I quickly found that this one more than the other two was one that I just could not put down. While I was bored for the rest of my trip I was extremely satisfied with the way this book was handled and the way that all the different parts and pieces of the puzzle were eventually all pulled back together.
It is a unique feeling when reading a book, you think back upon other parts of the series and think to yourself “so that’s what that meant!” … it’s very much akin to the feeling at the end of the Sixth Sense when you look back upon all the scenes that Bruce Willis was in and go “ah hah!”.
Brandon Sanderson has definitely done that in this book. The story of the Kandra, who the Koloss are and the knowledge of the Terrasmen. All of it has a part to play in this book and you will definitely enjoy seeing how all the pieces fit together.
In the Hero of Ages Vin and Elend are in a search for the secret to defeat the dark god Ruin. While Vin is the only one that really believes in Ruin, Elend’s trust in her is absolute and with his new found Mistborn powers – he is now the strongest Mistborn in the land. However, Vin’s experience and skill with the power still makes her the stronger of the two and they are a potent partnership.
With Vin’s new-found ability to control and influence the Koloss they are able to take control of a large army of Koloss in their search for the Lord Ruler’s cache’s of food, supplies and information.
However, the Koloss are not what they seem and their influence over them is also something that they do not understand fully. Discovering the secret of Atium and its resting place is only the first part in the puzzle to defeat Ruin.
To win however they will need to call upon strengths they didn’t know they had and learn the final secret of the land of the Last Empire.
I think I’ve said this before in some of my other posts, so I apologize for the repetition, but I just don’t know how he does it? Every time I think I’ve read everything written by the man, I find more books that I’ve still not read (I’m now working my way through an audio book of Elantris) and he continues to create new and distinctive styles of magic.
Most authors have trouble developing one magic system, let alone the 1/2 dozen (or more) that Brandon Sanderson has now put out in a variety of books. Its one thing to create a system its another, however when you tie up all the loose ends and make the system have proper rules and guidelines that work in that specific universe and here is definitely where he excels!
This point was driven home to me even more quite recently when I watched a repeat of a movie that I had enjoyed thoroughly as a child. Superman II was a great movie (I thought) and probably the one that I enjoyed the most, but comparing that to the most recently released Superman is a joke (often remakes are worse than the original but in this case, they’ve done an excellent job … I am however going of topic a bit).
With regards to the magic system (I know, Superman isn’t supposed to have Magic, but in the original Superman II movie he does!) in Superman II, all the Kryptonians seem to be able to shoot white beams of some sort of power from their hands, and they are also able to “wink” in and out and literally teleport themselves from place to place! This teleportation is NOT through super speed or anything like that, and in Superman’s case, not only can he teleport, he seems to be able to create holographic duplicates of himself! See what I mean about a messed up magic system? I know it’s Hollywood and you can’t exactly expect consistency from them, but still!!
From the book jacket:
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake.
Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice.
Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
What’s it all about?
In the Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson has written a book for young adults that offers chalk and drawings as a form of magic. This slightly different world (for example, the United States is formed from an archipelago and was depopulated when it was discovered) has students learning a unique form of magic called Rithmatics. Available only to a select few based on a mysterious ceremony, practitioners of this art are able to create intricate drawings for attack and defense.
While drawing with chalk might seem like just a game, in the mysterious state of Nebrask, wild chalklings are attempting to escape and when they do, the only outcome possible is death to the inhabitants of the land.
Similar to many other series (presented really well actually in the Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera) series) Joel loves the magic that he is unable to do. For whatever reason (you’ll need to read the book to find out!), he was not chosen by the “Master” and as such he does not have the gift that all the other rithmatists have.
In addition due to the loss of his father (who coincidentally is a chalkmaker) at an early age, Joel and his mother are quite poor and impoverished and in fact, Joel is only able to attend the prestigious Armedius Academy by the good grace of its principle who used to be friendly with Joel’s father.
Joel however has a love for Rithmatics that cannot be denied and while he continues to get removed from classes, he finds any excuse that he can to listen and learn from the Rithmatics instructors and is in attendance when one Rithmatics instructor challenges another to a duel for control of the class.
Rithmatics while a formula driven system is also very antagonistic and one of the ways that masters move up, is through formal duels. This duel progresses to its inevitable conclusion (I don’t think I’ll ruin the story to tell you that the challenger wins and takes over the class!) and Joel watches in awe as someone he thought unbeatable is humiliated conclusively.
While the story could simply be a matter of the magic system however, it is so much more as students start to disappear from the school in bizarre and fearful circumstances. Joel while technically proficient in his understanding of Rithmatics simply does not have the magic in himself and is unable to do much by himself, but with the assistance of another student – Melody he helps to investigate the disappearances and in the process changes everyone’s understanding of what he can and cannot do!
Overall I really enjoyed this book and loved how it developed and grew on me. Its not a heavy read and I think I finished it in 2 quick sittings and I can see it definitely appealing to readers of Harry Potter and other YA fantasy fans. If they truly do make a movie of this book – it will be a doozie and one that I know I would be happy to see in the theater!
I’ve read most everything that Brandon Sanderson has published now including the two newest Wheel of Time books (reviews here & here), his Mistborn series (reviewed here), his newest Magnum Opus – The Way of Kings (reviewed here) and finally most recently Warbreaker. Eventually I will get to the Elantris series also and will post my thoughts on that one too.
Below I’ll describe the story a little bit as well as the magic system in use in this land/world but simply put … I like Sanderson’s writing. It appeals to me and is easy to read and enjoy. You like his characters and empathize with them in the story which I think is essential for any good author and as we’ve seen in some of Sanderson’s works, he’s not just good … “he’s great!” (as you can tell I’ve had my Frosted Flakes this morning so I’m just channeling my inner Tony the Tiger!).
Warbreaker is basically the story of a land riven in twain by a brutal war fought generations ago. During the course of that war magic was used to animate the undead themselves and it was only through the work of one man that the war was averted.
Instructing the priests of that time that they needed to retain his power for his use in a future time, he departed taking his army with him and was never heard from again. However the land that remained behind was not as it was earlier and the ruling class were exiled to another land.
The Kings and Queens in exile settled in the land of Idris and here they developed and grew a stringent culture, with the emphasis that the magic that had deposed them was not to be used by their people.
The people and priests of Hallendren however went a different way. In combination with the magic that people are able to utilize (explained further below), “people” were returned after their death to this world. The people of Hallendren worshiped these “returnees” as gods and fed them breath (explained below) to sustain them and give them power in exchange for their visions and knowledge of what was on the other side of the veil. Basically as per the mythology the returnees have come back because the saw “something” on the other side and they need to help/prevent whatever will happen. A whole pantheon of gods were thus “born” and maintained in comfort and splendor in Hallendren. The leader of this pantheon was a God King who received 2 breaths every week – 1 to sustain and one to further empower him. These God Kings had also bequethed their abundance of breath to each of their decendants over the years leaving the current God King with a monsterous amount of power.
Conflict is a brewing however between the peoples of Idris and Hallendren. The people of Idris feel themselves to be the deposed rightful rules of the land, whereas the Hallendren think of them as simple rebels needing to be deposed of. Our story starts with the travel to Hallendren from Idris of a royal princess, fated to marry the God King by treaty in an effort to avert the war that all know is inevitable.
Warbreaker actually has quite a large cast of characters involved in the story, however there are a couple of “main” characters that really drive the story along.
A princess of Idris, Siri is the youngest daughter of the King of that land. As per the treaty between Idris and Hallendren, a daughter of the royal line is required to go to hallendren to marry the God King and thereby legitamize the changes in rulership since the Manywar. Siri was actually not the princess that was meant to go, rather it was her older sister Vivenna that was to be God Kings bride, however the King of Idris could not bear to part with Vivenna and thought that he could finagle the contract between the realms by sending Siri instead. Siri is a very flighty young girl at the beginning of th book but she gradually grows up and learns that not everything in Hallendren is what it seems.
Siri’s older sister, Vivenna was trained since birth to be the God Kings wife and to represent the interests of Idris in the land of Hallendren. However as it grew close to the time of her departure, her father realized that he could not bear to part with her and sent Siri in her stead. Vivenna deprived of her lifelong purpose set off in pursuit of Siri with the intent of rescuing her from Hallendren and returning her to her home and safety.
One of the returned Gods, Lightsong is a god that does not believe in his own divinity and is constantly challenging his priests. Lightsong has visions of an epic battle and deaths amongst the Gods themselves and while he is known as Lightsong the Brave, he has neither the skill or inclination to prove this bravery in any way. Lightsong is one of 4 Gods granted the power to control the army of Lifeless that hallendren control.
A mysterious character, Denth is a mercenary in the city of Hallendren. Vivenna utilizes his skills and contacts in order to forment rebellion amongst the local Idris people living in the slums of Hallendren. Denth is extremely well skilled with a sword and very knowledable about the power of Awakening, its use and limitations.
Probably one of the most interesting characters of the story, Vasher unfortunately gets limited page time, however when he shows up, generally all hell breaks lose! Vasher carries with him a magical sword – Nightblood – that definitely seems to have a mind of its own and he is opposed to Denth and whatever it is Denth is doing. Vasher is extremely well skilled in the use of Breath and Awakening and some of the commands he is able to utilze seem to be impossible.
The Science of the Magic
Breath literally is life in this world – the Returned Gods need a new breath each week simply to survive and as regular humans acquire breath their power expands also. A person can “trade” their breath to another and while it needs to be voluntary for those with little or no other options, sometimes this is the only option to survive.
When you give up your breath to another, you become a “drab” and everything in the world around you seems just a little bit more dull and lifeless, however for those who acquire breath the opposite is true – such as perfect pitch, perfect color recognition, perfect life recognition, and agelessness – and the more that you acquire the more you can do. Once you have enough breath in fact you can use it “awaken” objects and by giving them simple commands use these objects to assist you, however the simple act of awakening something reduces the amount of breath remaining for other tasks and in fact those with Breath can be identified by the aura they give of.
In this world, the magic system is called BioChromancy as it is not just breath that gives power but color also. When something is awakened the color is drawn from other items around that awakened object to help power it. The less colorful an object is, the harder it is to use BicoChromancy on it.
Just as in Mistborn and The Age of Kings, Brandon Sanderson has developed another magical system that has its own rules and laws and they just work. Nothing is too far fetched in relatio to the storyline and it all flows really well.
As stated earlier, Warbreaker is a good book. The writing is fun and easy to get into, not stilted in any way. The humour (and there is lots of it) sprinkled throughout the book suits the characters and their motivations – including Nightblood who is AWESOME! – and how the story progresses including the ulitimate resolution is really well handled. I have to be honest, most TV shows, books and Movies I can see the twist coming well before the end, but with Warbreaker I was honestly surprised at who the villian really was and how they were handled, created and conceived.
I liked the characters, the story and the magic – really i can’t find anything significant to fault with this book aside from the fact that is a stand alone tome and I don’t get to read more about what happens to my favorite characters!
I’d give this book 4.5 stars out of 5. Get a copy in your local bookshop and give it a read – if you like fantasy and intrigue you won’t be disappointed!